Fourth largest U.S. hotel chain to test new a la carte pricing structure

Photo (c) Witthaya Prasongsin - Getty Images

One upshot may be that travelers will no longer have to pay for amenities that they would never use

Consumer uproar over ancillary hotel fees is finally getting heard. MCR Hotels -- the fourth-largest hotel owner-operator in the U.S. -- is testing a new angle on prices and fees. 

Instead of lumping every amenity together under one price, the company is planning to only charge guests for the services and amenities that they want to pay for. The idea mirrors what the airline industry does by charging for extra legroom, meals, Wi-Fi, and baggage. 

Tyler Morse, chief executive of MCR Hotels, told the Wall Street Journal that the concept is being tested at roughly a dozen of his company’s independent hotels. He laid out some of the add-ons like this: 

If a guest wants to check in earlier or check out later, they can do so for a $20 fee. For things like the pool, the pricing varies depending on the day. On Tuesday, when there are fewer guests, using the pool might be free. But if they want to use it on the weekend when there are more people, it might cost them as much as $25. Breakfast and workout facilities are also available for an upcharge. 

As part of MCR’s beta test, the properties are also adjusting room rates lower to give the notion of some additional balance. 

Warming travelers up to the idea

MCR is taking this innovation in baby steps. Morse senses that it may take a while for guests to warm up to the a la carte pricing, but he feels good about its chances.

“Not every guest wants every product, and they don’t want to pay for something they were never going to use anyway,” he said. “Other owners are fully behind me, but there’s always a fear of change.”

Morse is also aware that MCR’s previous resort fee structure may have been a turnoff -- one so big that some guests swore off MCR properties completely. But when comparing the old and new pricing model, Morse said his hotel staff reports that customer complaints related to a la carte pricing are lower.

Hotel prices are rising

There’s little doubt that the Wyndhams, Marriotts, Hiltons, and Hyatts of the world are watching what MCR is doing and taking notes, but whether or not they’re ready to implement a similar system remains to be seen.

On top of the fee shakeout, travelers should be aware that the cost of staying at a hotel in the U.S. is not only going up, but it’s hitting a record high. HospitalityNet reports that the average daily rate for a hotel was $142 headed into August, the highest ever on a nominal basis.

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